History of Gurnee Fire Department from 1948 - 1978 by Chief Sam Dada

The year of 1948 was an eventful year for the Gurnee Fire Department. I joined the department on February 17, 1948.

At that time Charles Hook was Chief of the Department.

The fire station was located at McClure's Garage and the apparatus consisted of:

  • 2 International tanker pumpers, one with 300 G.P.M. and the other with 350 G.P.M. pumping capacities. Their booster tanker carried a total of 1100 gallons of water.

  • 1 - Pirsch 500 G.P.M. pumper which was the department's original.

On April 20,1948 Chief Hook made a report that property formerly owned by the Modern Woodman Lodge had been turned over to the Village of Gurnee. This is the property where the present fire station is located today.

A building committee for a fire station was appointed in the Gurnee Fire Dept. on April 20, 1948.

Their original estimate of cost of construction for this station was 7-8 thousand dollars. Their original estimate fell short about five thousand dollars.

Interesting to note, the fire department loaned to the Village of Gurnee some money for building materials to get the project going.

It was the intent to occupy the new station late in 1948 or early 1949. However, actual occupancy didn't occur until May of 1950.

A note in the minutes of a fall 1948 meeting of the fire department--Lunch meeting, $1.87.

December 1948--The fire department made first contract with Lake County Radio Department for first two way radio for the fire apparatus.

May 2, 1950--Leon Hubert elected as Chief of Department.

June 1950, Jeep brush truck put into service of the Gurnee Fire Department. It was a first of its kind in the Lake County, northern Illinois area. This truck's body, and equipment built and installed in the Craft Bros. shop by members of the fire department. The Craft Bros. Shop in now the Municipal Building of the Village of Gurnee. (Note...since this was written the village hall has moved and the police now occupy that building.)

During the year of 1953 Old Engine 742 was rebuilt with an all steel body and tanks. This truck had been built by department members during the years of the second world war. The work was done using the old Ag building of the High School as the shop and had been built with wooden tank as steel was not available for use do to being turned over to the Village of Gurnee. This is the property where the present fire station is located today.

January 1954--Old Barn on farm known as the Bill Barnstable Farm on Grange Hall Road burned to the ground. I recall the day as being Sunday, very, very cold and windy. The cause, a gas blow torch for thawing water pipes? One was found but no one would admit to having used it. In April of 1954 the Lake County Fireman's Assoc. instituted a death benefit fund for its members. The first in Illinois and another first for our Gurnee Firemen.

May 1954--Sam Dada elected Chief of Department.

August 1956--Gurnee's first fire hydrant was installed at Warren High School. This hydrant was supplied off of school well, and was used only for filling fire department water tanks during fires or when hauling water for people's cisterns.

In March of 1959 the Gurnee Fire Department took delivery of their second mid-ship mounted pumper, the only other was the original Pirsch bought in 1931, 28 years hence. This new engine was also built by Pirsch Company of Kenosha, the big difference that the new engine was built on a commercial chassis, an International Truck Chassis. Their pumper had a rated pumping capacity of 750 G.P.M. and a 800 gallon booster tank.

In May of 1962 William Dalziel was succeeded by Larry Klemm as Department and Corporation Secretary. "Bill" had held this position since the start of the department and its initial incorporation.

In August of 1962, Engine 744 was destroyed in an accident at Delany Road and Route 41, after being hit by a Semi Truck at the intersection . Gordon Gillings and Leon Hubert were seriously injured in this accident after the fire apparatus rolled over three complete times ending up on its wheels. The truck was so badly damaged that it was beyond repair.

September 1962--The Gurnee Fire Department purchased a new pumping engine to replace the wrecked apparatus.

In November of 1962 the Gurnee Fire Department purchased a 2 way radio for use in the Fire Chief's private automobile. Prior to this time, 2 way radios were not allowed in private owned vehicles do to a ruling of the Lake County Board. This was a another giant step forward in communications for the Lake County Fire Services.

Joe Dada Sr., the first Chief of the Gurnee Fire Department passed away on September 3, 1963.

Two large barns at the Spinney Run Dairy Farms were destroyed by Fire in November of 1964.

The first piece of apparatus to be used strictly as a rescue and equipment truck was purchased in November of 1964. This unit was a used vehicle and was described as a "bread" truck type van with a large enclosed body area for equipment and supplies.

June 1967 saw the fire department taking delivery on a new brush truck built on a Dodge 4 wheel drive chassis. This new unit replaced an original brush vehicle on a Jeep chassis built in 1950. The new unit is known as 743 which is the Radio call number which is usually the way we describe a given unit.

On August 31, 1967 William Dalziel passed away. "Bill" was the original department Secretary and had held that position for 33 years, also being a Charter member of the Gurnee Fire Department. "Bill" was 71 years of age at the time of his death.

In June of 1968 a major first for our community and Fire Department occurred with the hiring of our first paid dispatchers for answering the emergency telephones and handling the radio dispatching. Prior to this time the daytime calls were answered at McClure's Garage, where they could also sound the big fire siren.

The night and Sunday fire calls were answered at six firemen's homes and the responsibility of "duty" was a task which tied one to the phone as you couldn't even go out into the yard unless someone was in the house to answer the phone.

January of 1969 saw the first fire alarm monitoring panel being installed. This gave our community the capability of having fire alarm system monitored on a 24 hour basis. Alarms from schools, industry, and private businesses are a few of the alarms monitored today by our modern monitoring system.

During August of 1969 we received delivery of a new 1000 gallon per minute pumping engine. This unit was to replace a 1942 unit which had outlived its usefulness as a dependable apparatus and only had a pumping capacity of 350 gallons per minute, hardly enough to keep up with the demands of our expanding community.

In the fall of 1969 the Village of Gurnee purchased the first municipal owned vehicle which was used by the Fire Chief for fire department duties and the other responsibilities that he had as Superintendent of Public Works. The Fire Chief job being only a "Volunteer" part time position. "Part time" by description only.

The fire department minutes of January 1970 recorded where Grange Hall Road had now been changed to Washington Street.

The 1000th meeting of the Gurnee Volunteer Fire Department was held on February 17, 1970.

The present "Squad" truck was delivered new from Ohio in 1971. This unit in service today, had replaced the unit which was purchased used in 1964. This new unit was the first rescue apparatus owned by the fire department with capabilities of transporting a victim on a stretcher, and equipped with oxygen and other life support equipment.

In July of 1972 the original chartered Gurnee Volunteer Fire Department was disbanded as a non profit corporation and all equipment and apparatus was turned over to the Village of Gurnee. The department at this time became a municipal fire department, governed by the Village President and Board of Trustees of the Village of Gurnee.

Also during 1972 the members of the fire department requested permission to start a campaign to raise money for what is today known as "The Crusade for Life." The original drive was to raise money for heart monitoring equipment.

It was also established at that time a grant request to purchase the first department Mobil Intensive Care Unit under matching funds through the State of Illinois under a federal grant.

However, in 1973 the grant was rejected and the members of the department re-intensified their efforts to raise sufficient funds to cover the entire project of vehicle plus equipment and supplies. With much assistance by civic and social organizations, by Village Government and the general public, the monies were raised.

1973 also saw major piece of fire fighting apparatus come into being, that of the aerial ladder truck. This unit had several persons who had strong feelings against its purchase and need. However, in the Spring of '74 a fire at Warren High School proved the worth of this type of apparatus in our department, and put more reliance in the judgment of those who are given the responsibility of making such decisions.

October 1973 also saw the position of paid Fire Chief coming into being.

November 1974 the present and first Mobil Intensive Care Unit of Gurnee and Warren Township was delivered and put into service, Unit 748 had become a reality.

Our Para-Medic Program was also instituted and put into service at this same time. With the coming of this latest apparatus we witnessed the fact that the fire station apparatus room was far to small, and the placing of other fire apparatus at other facilities a necessity. Engine 744 garaged at McClure's Garage.

1974--Started talking about the need for a new fire station.

In 1975 with the new public works building being completed, the fire department took over the west half of the Village Quonset building to the rear of the Village Municipal Building. The fire department now garaged Engine 744 and Brush Truck 743 in this building.

A major advancement for any community and especially Gurnee and Warren Township took place on July 15, 1977 when the fire department hired and put on our first paid firemen. Four men were hired at this time to work 10 hours per day, seven days a week with three men on duty each day from 7:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. These men serve as firefighters and Para-Medics and certainly give our citizens a needed service.

In October of 1977 the fire department took delivery on a Mini Pumper crash rescue unit. This unit carries rescue extrication equipment as well as fire suppression equipment and supplies. However, with its arrival another of the present apparatus had to be added to the apparatus already being garaged in the Quonset building. This building now being known as "Station Two."

Early in 1978 a professional fire protection Engineer was hired by the Village and Fire District to make a survey and give his professional advice on needed station, location, personnel, apparatus and rescue services. This survey to cover all aspects of the fire department and its related services and functions.

We are however still "talking about the needs of bigger and better fire station facilities."

Therefore, a brief overview of the "Gurnee Fire Department" as I have seen it from my joining in 1948 until today, May 1978 - 30 years of serving our community and fellow man.

--Chief Sam Dada